Tuesday 27 September 2016

Quick dispatch of the party leader is one FG habit FF will applaud

Published 01/03/2016 | 02:30

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny

When the going gets tough Fine Gael goes for the leader.

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It's been the default position through the years to cleanse their sins by axing the leader.

Enda Kenny knows that better than most and will no doubt be more than aware of the murmurings that started within hours of the ballot boxes opening on Saturday.

TDs have knives hidden behind their backs, but nobody is willing to strike while the country sits in such a state of flux.

Most hope the knives will never have to be produced and that Mr Kenny, pictured right, will shuffle towards the backbenches in an orderly fashion.

It would save them the blood-letting and allow the party leader to make a dignified exit from Government Buildings.

But make no mistake. There is a time-bomb and if Mr Kenny takes too long, somebody within Fine Gael will pull the pin.

The party has always taken a more proactive approach to changing leaders than others.

Alan Dukes, John Bruton and Michael Noonan were all disposed of with little sentiment.

In 1990 Bruton led a coup against Dukes following an unflattering performance by Austin Currie in the presidential election.

Pushing from the front was one Enda Kenny who would later be rewarded with a job as Tourism Minister.

During his tenure, Bruton was forced to fight off two heaves while opposition leader but the driving forces behind those onslaughts, Alan Dukes and Michael Noonan, backed off when he became Taoiseach in 1994.

That lasted until 2001 when Noonan sensed blood again on the back of poor opinion polls and went for the jugular.

But his reign was short-lived, and when Fine Gael won just 31 seats in the 2002 election, Noonan immediately resigned to pave the way for Enda Kenny.

Of course Mr Kenny is often at his best when he's on the ropes.

Against all the odds in June 2010 he fended off Richard Bruton in a most divisive heave and managed to bring all sides back together again afterwards.

That won't be an option this time because the stakes are much higher.

On that occasion the battle was pitched as 'Enda and the country folk' versus 'Bruton and his cappuccino-sipping city slickers'.

Now the potential successors are a varied bunch who all come with their own backers.

Between them Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney and Frances Fitzgerald represent rural and urban Fine Gael, the next generation of the party and the safe pair of hands, and male and female.

And that's even before a dark horse emerges.

But the other big problem for Mr Kenny is that the key thing Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil TDs agree on in this post-election shadow boxing is that his long-term future is not as Taoiseach of the country.

Irish Independent

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